Is this Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Erin Stewart and Rebecca Mancini

Liana's Case Study

Liana is a 17 year old female who has been an avid runner for the past 5 years, never having any major problems with her workouts. She eats the proper foods, making sure she gets all the nutrients her body needs in order to function, and what she looses after her running workouts. For the past few days at her running practices, Liana has been feeling very tired and becoming short of her breath, which is unusual for her. Normally she can make it through workouts, especially the harder ones, but they have grown increasingly harder and harder each practice. She has even complained about having headaches after some practices and her face grows more pale towards the end of her workouts. These symptoms began occurring more and more often, and she kept wondering why she was having such a hard time making it through workouts she's done various times before, so she decided to go to the doctor to see what was going on.


Liana went to the doctor and began explaining all the symptoms, naming them off one by one (fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, pale face), in which the doctor suggested she get a blood test, as these are the symptoms of anemia, but they can't be sure unless she gets her blood tested. Because Liana is a runner and the most common form of anemia is iron deficiency anemia, her doctor orders a complete blood count test and an additional serum iron and serum ferritin test. A needle will be used to draw the blood. This CBC blood test looks at the levels of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen and hematocrit, the volume percentage of red blood cells in blood. Her doctor wants to look at her iron levels as well because iron in the blood helps make red blood cells, and having low iron in the body causes less red blood cells to be back, resulting in less oxygen being carried to the body's tissues. Ferritin is the iron storage in the body, so by testing this, Liana's doctor will be able to see how much iron is actually in her body.

Comparison of Blood Samples

Normal red blood cells: healthy red color with large dark iron molecules

Anemia red blood cells: small oval-shaped cells with a more pale color andless iron molecules
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When Liana got her test results back of her blood samples, her doctor found low levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit as well as iron, diagnosing her with iron deficiency anemia. Liana's response to this was "how is it that I got iron deficiency anemia?" To answer her question, her doctor told her that runners lose iron through their feet, a process called foot strike hemolysis, as red blood cells are damaged every time the foot hits the ground, through sweating, and the basic fact that she is a female going through menstruation, increasing her chances of getting iron deficiency anemia. Her doctor also points out that she may be eating healthy, but the amount of iron lost in her body could be more than she replenishes after workouts. So her treatment is to take iron supplements and adding more iron-rich foods into her diet, which can include spinach, fish, beef, chicken and legumes. After several weeks of increasing her iron levels she should be back to normal.
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What exactly is iron deficiency anemia?

To sum up Liana's case, iron deficiency anemia is caused by a lack of iron in red blood cells. Without iron in these cells, the body cannot properly provide the body's tissues with the oxygen it needs, and the more iron people lose than their body can replace, anemia is developed. Or it can be caused by the body not properly absorbing iron, which in cases of people being vegetarians this can happen.

Works Cited

"Description of Iron Deficiency Anemia." PERS2002N(CODY): World Hunger. Georgia State University, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <>.

Gaudette, Jeff. "Iron Deficiency in Runners." Runners Connect. Runners Connect, 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <>.

"Iron Deficiency Anemia: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <>

"Iron-Deficiency Anemia." Iron-Deficiency Anemia. American Society of Hematology, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <>.